Friday was the second match of the season and the second draw of the season. While a result is better than no result, the match felt more like a loss in part because Orlando City had gained the early lead in the match, and also due to the team's inability to score on Chicago after they went a man down due to a red card that referee Ted Unkel issued to Michael Harrington in the 33rd minute for a vicious studs-up collision with Brek Shea.
- Fast Start: Orlando City raced off to a fast start on Friday night. The pattern for this team has been to gain possession and control the pace and position of play on the pitch over the first twenty minutes or so, but not emerge from that period with any goals to show for it. On Friday night, however, OCSC struck quickly, with Kevin Molino feeding Cyle Larin in the 4th minute for the second-year phenom to notch his second goal of the season.
- Improved Defensive Play: I mean no disrespect to our new netminder, but I'm not sure I'm completely sold on Joe Bendik's qualifications to be a top goalkeeper in MLS. He seems a bit hesitant and tentative compared to Tally Hall, and I'm not sure if he's just getting more comfortable with his new teammates or if there really is a big gap between his skill level and that of Hall. Having said that, I have been generally more pleased with the quality of defensive play by the back four of the Orlando City line compared to the beginning of the 2015 season, because they are proving much better at tackling the ball away from attackers and preventing the other team from being able to get a shot on goal.
- Nocerino's Debut: The continuing injury to Kaka and the red card to Darwin Ceren from the first match of the season permitted Orlando City to give new midfielder Antonio Nocerino his first minutes and start of the season on Friday night. He was darting around the pitch for the entire 63 minutes he played on the night, looking to feed passes to his teammates and playing active defense. Many of his passes were slightly off the mark as he has not yet seemed to get the right measure of his new teammates' speed and the distance they can cover. However, even with the passes slightly off, it's obvious to see that he and his teammates are communicating well and thinking creatively, and when the passes were off the mark they generally rolled harmlessly across the boundary of the pitch instead of setting up the opposition for an easy counter attack.
- Officiating: I must stress this is a general "good," because a specific call of the official also appears in the "Ugly" section of this match review. But I thought that Ted Unkel was quite equitable and careful in officiating the game. He was balanced, for the most part, in what drew cautions for either side, and he opted for verbal warnings to both team in place of excessive bookings that probably were not needed. I saw only two obvious blown calls all match (others may have different counts), and in what I saw he missed a call that should have been made against each team.
- Hadji Barry: For the second time in as many matches, rookie Hadji Barry, recruited from Orlando's own UCF, came off the bench and contributed to the match for Orlando City. Barry is very active and is making himself a threat near the opposing goal as soon as he gets into the match.
- Failure to Capitalize on Red Card Advantage: In the introduction I mentioned that Chicago's Harrington was sent off in the 33rd minute for raking Brek' Shea's thigh with his studs in a very dangerous tackle. By that time the score was tied 1 - 1, and OCSC proved ineffective at capitalizing on the advantage for the rest of the match. By contrast, Chicago seemed to gain some urgency and was effective at mounting counter-attacks more often than I would like, feeding the ball to their speedy forwards Accam and Igboananike in the attacking third before our defenders were able to dispossess them of the ball.
- Shaky Goalkeeping: I've already alluded to this earlier, but I'm not 100% sold on Joe Bendik as the answer at goalkeeper. He either needs to step up his game and show some better ability to save shots and turn away attacks, or the club needs to get someone on the pitch that can handle those responsibilities better.
- Inconsistent Attacking: There were stretches during the match where Orlando City made flurries of attacks against the Chicago goal, but there was far too much time when the club just seemed too content to kick the ball back and forth to each other in the middle third of the field.
- Critical Missed Call: I said before that Ted Unkel only missed one call for each team that I saw. Unfortunately the one he missed against Chicago should have been a game changer. In the 93rd minute, Johan Kappelhof mugged Cyle Larin in front of the Chicago goal and dragged him to the ground. It was a clear case that a PK should have been awarded to Orlando City, but Ted Unkel swallowed his whistle and didn't even call a foul. I thought it was interesting in the post-match comments that Coach Heath said he didn't expect we would get the call at that point in the match, but I would have thought that Unkel could have been justified in adding another minute or more to the match after awarding a PK if he felt like it was too close to the end. But Kappelhof's takedown was clearly a desperation move and it should have been penalized as such.
- Lazy Second-half Possession: Orlando City held a big possession advantage in the first half, largely due to completing well over 90% of its passes. In the second half, the passing accuracy and thus possession dropped well off, and Orlando City gave up the ball way too many times and way too easily to the shorthanded Chicago side.
What did you see in the match on Friday night? Do you agree or disagree with these points, or do you think there are things I missed or got wrong in my match review? Let me know in the comments!